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Teachers Struggle in Class

March 13, 2004

Re "Kids, Here's a Fine Mess They've Gotten Us Into," by Bill Cosby, Commentary, March 8: I am the mother of twins in their early 30s who always wanted to teach. They are both now successful elementary teachers, one in a lower-income area of California, the other in the comfortable suburbs of Long Island. The daughter in the low-income district spends a good deal of her own money on extras for the students. She is tireless in her dedication to these students but finds it frustrating that so much of the time she could be teaching her second-graders is spent in preparing them for mandated testing. She must deal as well with the problems of poverty and stressed-out working parents. Nevertheless, she loves her career and her students.

Her twin sister teaches children who are by and large privileged, many from homes that are affluent enough that moms can stay home, and the school does not lack resources. Yet she also faces the mandated testing that takes so much time away from teaching. One of her biggest challenges is saving money for a down payment on a house, because affordable housing is nonexistent on Long Island. Also, she worries that she and her husband may not be able to afford a family of their own. She too loves her job and the children she teaches.

Both daughters have been required to pay for master's-level courses out of pocket in order to keep their positions. They have had to attend classes on weeknights when they were already exhausted from a day in the classroom. So in addition to other stresses, they are each faced with a debt of $20,000 for graduate school. Yet still they are both very dedicated to teaching.

I thank Cosby for bringing to the attention of the next president the importance of paying attention to the schools and the teachers in this country.

Judith Squires

Burbank

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Perhaps Sacramento should take a hard look at all the money that is being paid to the publishers and the consultants who are brought in to "teach" our teachers how to use the textbooks/workbooks/test prep books that our school districts select for our children. These materials tell the teacher specifically what page to hand out day by day, week by week; do our teachers really need a credential to hand out pieces of paper? Look for places to cut out the publishers instead of our children's programs!

Maria C. Feldman

Long Beach

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